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The Only Rule Is Plastic

by Roger Young / Images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 09.03.2011

On my back, I am charting the stars slyly swapping places. The sky has a never before imagined depth. In the far distance, through the sound of the electro pyramid, we can hardly hear the roar of Funeral For A Friend. My ‘shrooms kicked in halfway through their set and it was too hectic; I had to go. I walked up to the tent camp, passed a guy on his knees greedily sucking from a tap, and found a bunch of loosely connected people too blissed out to move. Conversation was disjointed and muted; I drifted off. There is a drop in the electronica and Funeral come through on the wind, strong. A girl in a hammock sits up and says, “Hierdie is die mooiste liedjie”. Someone else rolls over in the dirt, says, “What are we doing? This will all be over in a few hours, we should go soak it in.” We jump and scramble back into the maw.


We arrived at Ramfest 2011 by train on the Thursday afternoon and were camped in by three. The train trip hadn’t been as hectic as last year but still we felt a little fragile, there was a sorta group consensus to take it easy that night. The story upon arrival of a technician losing his thumb in a truck winch combined with mild train fatigue had brought us down. After all there was nothing to really do, only the Mercury tent would be open. The main stage and electro pyramid were just doing sound checks. At around nine we decided to turn in after one more drink. Before that drink was finished some of us ingested mushrooms. Within a few hours there was a naked person, spit showers, piggyback rides and dancing on tables. Liam Lynch was swinging from the roof of the tent. Tim Apter leans to me and says: “There are a lot of young girls here on the verge of making big mistakes.”  There was a mosh pit to Rage Against The Machine and Wham! A hot, cute girl takes off her leggings or panties while I give her balance and then I try take her out like a bag of salt but her friends intervene. When “We Built This City” comes on a rousing chorus of “we built this city on Loc – N – Ville” overtakes the tent. It was a stupid night, high and wild with laughter. We had made it to Ramfest and everything was more or less in the same place as last year (including my tent which I had abandoned here). The last thing I remember clearly is Lynch and Kevin Goss Ross shooting the crowd from the speaker stacks and the crowd moshing to them as if they were an actual band.


Friday, we wake up sweating in our tents. It’s eight AM and it’s already too hot to sleep any more. The tent camp by the pool has expanded over night and the empty festival, which we owned for a brief moment, is now being taken over by Gen Pop. I’ve kept space around my tent for late arrivals but I have little hope they’ll get here in time to claim it. Up by the pool it’s calm but down in the main camping area, eddies of dust are causing people to say, “so just like Oppi then.” I hear two metal kids talking about whether or not to try sneak drinks into the main area. A guy walks past them, “you don’t need to sneak, this isn’t Thornfest. You can take in anything you want. The only rule is plastic.”
We swim. We river. We tent camp. We realize it’s nearly time for BLK JKS and race down to the main stage. It’s a terrible slot for one of the most boundary pushing bands in the land right now. Seven PM and Gen Pop is mostly still setting up their tents. The sun is still up and this band is better appreciated in darkness and, even worse, it doesn’t feel like the engineers have a full handle on their space jazz prog sound. The JKS don’t care, they didn’t come all the way here to complain and as the sun sinks hard against the rock space ship sounds, the engineers start to pull through. There are probably about two hundred people watching Linda stalk the stage in his black kaftan, and only a handful are into it. The rest stand around looking bemused. Tshepang looks like an angry toddler with a toy drum set, his dreads aflying like a sea of snake, building the set through Molalatladi; the darkness begins to gather. It ends triumphant in a ravaged storm of feedback and chaos. The BLK JKS redefine rock and roll but none of the rock ‘n rollers are around to see it. It’s eight PM on Friday night and the best band at the festival has already played.


We wait for Ashtray Electric to start and, when they do, we immediately regret it. After the BLK JKS they sound like the worst kind of MOR pop rock; with nothing real, alternative or really musical about them. I escape over to the Griet Electro pyramid (which, unless you are on ‘shrooms, is actually a triangle) to catch Double Adaptor, who are, as per usual, just fucking it up hard. The Electro triangle is a blaze of LCD light and Double Adaptor are whacking out their brand of hard wobbly electro death grind shit. I’m drawn in and lost. Somehow I find myself in the river, swimming with a drunk girl. Who I like. Who quite plainly doesn’t like me. Her not like of me and my refusal to see it cock blocks my entire festival; this is becoming a theme in my life. Somehow time slips away.

I’m in the tent camp alone and drunk and all I can hear is pounding electro. I have no idea what is going on on the main stage. Desmond and the Tutus! I realize and rush back too late. Zebra & Giraffe have already started and they’re abysmal. Really, really terrible. It’s the worst kind of lame pop ever (and again, not real or alternative). “Terrified, I’m terrified!” Greg Carlin warbles like a rejected singer from a Wham! cover band. I have to leave. I seek cover in the Metal tent, seeing as it’s so close.


It’s a sea of metalness, like a coding of metal, all the right elements are there; black clothing, long hair, piercings, moshing and a weird miserablist fervour. It occurs to me that most metalhead girls are quite hot and that a large proportion of metalhead guys are chubby and bearded. I am chubby and bearded. There is of course only one problem with this idea. It might actually involve me listening to metal. But you see this is what I love about Ramfest; the metalheads have their domain, the electronic kids too and the main stage is decidedly radio friendly alternative, except of course for the better bands, which are mostly confined to day slots.

Back at the main stage it’s the tail end of the deeply racist and boring Gazelle. No, maybe racist is too strong a word; Gazelle is just full of failed irony. The whole white African dictator outfit and the pseudo Bootsy Collins outfits just come off as lame and wannabe. I probably wouldn’t think this was the case if the music was any good but it’s not; it’s overblown jazz house from 1997 and it is relies too heavily on crowd hyping and cheesy accents to have any substance. But even if the music was good; the use of the British museum type ethnographic footage from the early 1900s’ of the “savage in his environment” is deeply troubling, I’m sure it’s an attempt to take back the footage, so to speak, but it just comes off as exploitative.

It feels like it’s going to be all downhill from here, my energy is flagging, my mood has soured. Maybe I’m just hating on these bands because I’ve been up for days, maybe it’s because I just don’t like them. A festival has to cater for so many people, it just can’t please everyone all the time; Ramfest however tries poes hard.

Yolandi Visser, Die Antwoord, Ramfest

Die Antwoord come on and immediately feel played out. For the first few tracks I’m thinking “seen it all before” but Ninja and Yo-Landi’s energy is super nova. The crowd eat it up and throw it back, the beats are hard and slick, the rhyming and weaving is so fucking tight that by the time Jack Parow comes on for “Wat Pomp”, I’m as big a fan as I was before the explosion. Hi-Tech’s beats just own. Ninja and Yo-Landi have honed their performance down to an effortless flow of insult and gratitude; they treat the crowd like a younger brother, warmth hidden below the taunts. Parow is also mind-blowingly excellent in this context, he seems to be let loose from his comedy persona and just rips into the rhymes; it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. Yo-landi is Rich Bitch; it’s method supreme, the kind of thing you only ever see a few times in your life. Their rendition of Enya’s “Sail Away” is just perfect. During the second chorus of “Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away Motherfuckers”, I’m crying and laughing at the same time; like I’ve taken killer drugs but I haven’t. There is so much love in Ninja’s fake aggression, so much playfulness that there is no need to wonder why they have become so massive.

Ninja, Die Antwoord, Ramfest

The lights go down for “Evil Boy”; Wanga bursts forth, he fits in with Yo-landi and Ninja like he’s been performing with them his entire life. I thought it couldn’t get better but it just does. Somewhere in my tiny little heart I hate Ninja and crew for being this good; for making me gush so hard. But the real kicker, the real moment is “Doos Dronk”; Die Antwoord at their most savage and brilliant. A massive and doos dronk festival crowd singing “Doos Dronk” back to a band that may or may not be criticising them for being doos dronk. But it’s the force of the performance that overrides any of this supposed critique; Parow is back on the stage and is joined by Francois Van Coke, the four of them tear through it angry and hard; RAMfest goes apeshit.

Francois Van Coke, Doos Dronk, Ramfest

It ends too quickly and we’re heading to the Triangle for Tom Deluxx and Haezer, somehow I end up back stage insulting the guys from Don’t Party about their couch. Then the chick from the MK thing is gaffer taping my wrists together. Outside the bass is so hard that if you lift your hands in the air it just pushes them back. Kevin seems too afraid or too tired to photograph the mayhem. Some time during HAEZERS set I feel faint. The light emanating from the Triangle actually creates some sort of half pyramid on the dancefloor and I’ve been a bad little Egyptian. I stumble away from the mass and wake up a few hours later twenty meters from the dance floor, face down in grass. All I can hear is Jake from BTEAM shouting “Where the fuck is the sun, Where the fuck is the sun”. I retreat to my tent. The electro invades my dreams.

Jack Parow, Ramfest

Ramfest, Blk Jks

Ninja, Die Antwoord, Ramfest

Yolandi Visser, Die Antwoord, Ramfest

*All images © Kevin Goss-Ross.

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  1. ShlongDong says:

    BLK JKS were fucking amazing on Friday evening, that final song as dusk set in was something special. It’s actually a crying shame so few people witnessed that, but their loss. The Mercury tent was good fun and a good addition to the festival, we were stage diving off it to RATM while drunk girls squirted Ramfest bottles full of brandy and coke all over us on Friday night after the bands.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    beautiful roger, beautiful.

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  3. Bass Player says:

    The sound at the main stage this year was so much better than last years, was fucking awesome! The subs in their system really just hit you in the chest hard, was EPIC! \m/

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  4. Pieter says:

    Would have been nice to hear how Not My Dog was. Anyway..

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  5. ShlongDong says:

    Think this was just the Thursday and Friday night review Pieter, Saturday to come I’m guessing.

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  6. ShlongDong says:

    But yes, Not My Dog were amazing, put Alkaline Trio and Funeral For A Friend to shame.

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  7. Pieter says:

    Cool. Cant wait for the JHB show.

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  8. Junkeye says:

    So glad somebody formulated exactly why Gazelle is so irritating and pretentious,

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  9. RickyDee says:

    Agree with ShlongDong. BLK JKS were phenomenal. Just a pity they were given such an early slot that so few people supported.

    The same happened with Tumi on Saturday. His 3pm slot in blazing heat was easily one of the highlights.

    Great review.

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  10. Henno Kruger says:

    Highlights of my first ever RAMFest in the Western Cape was definitely the party in the Mercury tent on Thursday night… On Friday definately Ashtray Electric and Zebra and Giraffe – On Saturday definately Van Coke Kartel, Isochronous and Mr Cat and the Jackal 😛

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  11. ShlongDong says:

    Yeah man Tumi was mindblowing too, probably my favourite performance of Ramfest with Not My Dog. I saw both Tumi and BLK JKS at Oppikoppi last year and they played amazing sets one after each other to a nice sunset crowd of a few thousand people at the Levi’s stage. That’s why it was quite a bummer to see so few people watching them at Ramfest, but alas that’s how it goes I guess. Hopefully the organisers will bring them back next year in better slots.

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  12. Ts'eliso says:

    My heart sank as, at approx. quarter to eight on Friday, we arrive at Nekkies to find that Blk Jks had just played…was really looking forward to seeing them in a live setting.

    Otherwise, the festival was mad. I’d actually looked forward to seeing what the motherfukkin deal is with Gazelle…glad I did, they really do suck

    “Ninja and Yo-Landi have honed their performance down to an effortless flow of insult and gratitude” — very much agreed, their show was one of my highlights

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  13. George Bacon says:

    Love your work Roger. Saw some pictures of your Ramfest excursion on facebook. I guess this article explains them.

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  14. Rob says:

    Brilliantly put Roger. My sentiments exactly. I fell into the unfortunate group who cam just too late for Blk Jks and just in time for disappointing Ashtray Electric – the lineup schedule was really fucked.

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  15. Lu says:

    I think i just wiped away a tear. Ramfest Jhb will not be the same. Fact.

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  16. Rog says:

    Sounds superb. Fuck up about everyone missing BLK JKS. Great Job on the photos. Any link to see more?

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  17. mick says:

    Very pretty review – everything in its right place.

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  18. Nickcage says:

    Funeral for A Friend destroyed the place. I have never seen a moshpit that huge and a Wall Of Death like that =O. Alkaline Trio were amazing too. Not My Dog suck compared to them. No matter what you might think this is the true.. FFAF are amazing musicians.

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  19. Kevin Goss-Ross says:

    Awesome Roger. You nail Ramfest again. But you know it isn’t the BEST Ramfest when Young don’t cry.

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  20. […] about RAMFest 2011 Cape Town: Shosholoza RAMFEST – Mahala Words Fail Us – Mahala The Only Rule is Plastic – Mahala Review: RAMFest V – Whats On In Cape Town RAMFest Kliphard – […]

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant review! Telling it like it is

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  22. ShlongDong says:

    “Not My Dog suck compared to them. No matter what you might think this is the true…”

    And you can quantify this how? Oh yes I forgot, flat vocals, generic post-hardcore riffage and poor sound trumps all. Look, don’t get me wrong, Funeral For A Friend were great nostalgia wise, and I was happy they played Escape Artists Never Die, Juneau, History and Into Oblivion. But if I was someone who never really knew them I think I’d be a bit disappointed in the quality of the performance (which is why I’m glad I didn’t watch Alkaline Trio, people I know who have been lifelong fans of them were very disappointed and didn’t have very nice things to say about their set).

    “I have never seen a moshpit that huge and a Wall Of Death like that =O”

    Spend more time in the metal tent instead of the electro stage next year… 😉 Seriously though, that wall of death was pretty shit, even Matt Davies said “that’s the lamest fucking wall of death I’ve ever seen Cape Town” after he spent two minutes trying to explain to the pit the simple exercise of forming two walls that run into each other. Come to The Ghost Inside shows in May, your jaw will drop.

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  23. Pieter says:

    Amen Shlongdong. The Ghost Inside is gonna rip.

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  24. dwight says:

    I thought Blk Jks and Ashtray Electric were both awesome!

    Oh and Roger. You my friend… you my friend… you my friend… are a craaaaaaaaaazy rebel!!

    You should be repeatedly kicking yourself in the ballsack for missing Desmond and the Tutus. I thought it was impossible, but I had more fun during their show than this one time I was in a shopping mall on shrooms playing with a slinky on an escalator!

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  25. Bass Player says:

    @Nick Cage – Dude, you are a tool.

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  26. mika says:

    blk jks, are hands down one of the most impressive bands/ artists from SA….. Its just funny how SA refuses to embrace them fully, and the rest od the world cant get enough of them…
    why blk jks are not noticed as an amazing group I dont know……… and why half the bands you mentioned are noticed confuses me more

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  27. sakkie says:

    Great stuff Roger. Pity you missed Not My Dog as I would have liked to see your take on them. The best act of Ramfest for me.

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  28. cnut says:

    “… I am chubby and bearded…”

    More like morbidly fucking obese… but hey… at least you already know your time on this earth is short and how you’ll die…

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  29. cockhorser says:

    LOLzZz @cnut

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